Soldiers found guilty of killing two Papuans in Timika and dismissed from military service

Judges at the III-17 Military Court in Manado found Lieutenant Gabriel Bowie Wijaya and Private Sugi Harnoto guilty of killing Mr Eden Bebari and Mr Roni Wandik in Timika on 13 April 2020. Both perpetrators were dismissed from military service. The two military members had been charged with Article 338 of the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP) on murder and Article 170 (2)3 KUHP on using collective force to commit violence resulting in death. Lieutenant Gabriel Bowie Wijaya was sentenced to seven years imprisonment, while Private Sugi Harnoto received an imprisonment sentence of six years. Previously, the prosecutor had demanded sentences of ten and nine years imprisonment for the defendants.

The legal process against two other suspects, Mr Bahari Muhrim and Mr Vicente de Oliveira, is still pending. They shall be tried in a separate trial because both soldiers are affiliated with the IX/Udayana Military Command. The current status of the law enforcement process against them is not clear.

Following the verdict, the director of the Association of Human Rights Lawyers for Papua (Paham Papua), Mr Gustaf Kawer, declared “We appreciate the judge’s verdict against the two perpetrators, especially that both have been dismissed from military service. This is important and becomes a lesson for other troops in Papua to be more careful in carrying out their duties. They must pay more attention to the culture and develop a sense of humanity towards the local communities.” Paham Papua has been providing legal counsel to the victim`s relatives since April 2020.

Kawer hopes that similar future cases will be settled through a human rights court. In contrast to the military tribunal mechanism, a military court process provides a higher possibility to hold high-ranking military members accountable for human rights violations.

In late March 2022, the victims’ relatives received information that the trial against the suspects Lieutenant Gabriel Bowie Wijaya, Staff Sergeant Vicente de Oliviera Santos, Private Bahari Muhrim, and Private Sugi Harnoto will not take place in Timika but in Makassar, South Sulawesi Province. Human rights observers and relatives understood the change of location as an attempt to impede relatives and witnesses from attending the trial. They called upon the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) to urge the military prosecutor that the trial shall be held in Timika, where the shooting occurred.

The trial against Lieutenant Gabriel Bowie Wijaya and Private Sugi Harnoto was finally held in the city of Manado, North Sulawesi Province.